Boise State Football: 5 Benchmarks for Spring Success
Spring practice is in full swing for Boise State, and so far it looks to be business as usual for the Broncos in 2013.
At this time last season, head coach Chris Petersen found himself in the middle of a massive rebuilding project with many new faces in the mix. Among those faces were players and coaches alike, but in the end, the results were very similar.
This season Petersen has most of his coaching staff intact for the second straight year, and although there are new faces on the roster, many key players are still with the program.
If last season was a massive rebuild, this season could be called a selective renovation.
With much more to work with on his roster, coach Pete has taken it upon himself to tweak a few things in an effort to take his team even higher in 2013.
Let's look at five benchmarks of spring camp that should give a good indication that coach Petersen and his Broncos are in position to raise the bar this fall.
Streamlining the Offense
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Streamlining the offense is a key goal for coach Petersen in 2013. In 2012, the Broncos scored just 30.2 points per game, which the worst output for a Boise State team since 1998.
When you look at the numbers, it really is quite staggering.
Since coach Petersen has been with the Broncos, either as the offensive coordinator or the head coach, the Broncos offense has not failed to eclipse the 400-point barrier. That is, until 2012.
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Looking at these numbers, it really is amazing what the Broncos have been able to accomplish since 2001. It is also amazing to think about the fact that even the 2012 team went 11-2 with a bowl win over Washington.
Of course anyone who watched the Broncos in 2012 knows that it was defense that carried the day, and that won't cut it for a head coach who is extremely offensive minded.
Coach Pete is not happy with the lack of offensive fire power and has stated publicly that he is going to fix it this season. In an article written by Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman Petersen is quoted as saying:
We’re going to look at our offense from top to bottom. We’ve been doing this for a long time and there’s a lot of dead weight in it and we need to get rid of a lot of things. We’ve already had early discussions and it will be interesting to see where we go with this whole thing.
How does Petersen plan to do this?
In another Idaho Statesman article written by Cripe, Petersen made it clear by saying, "We have too much stuff." In the same article, Petersen elaborates that he and his staff are picking through the playbook in an effort to determine what's needed and what isn't.
By the end of spring practice, you have to believe that Petersen and his staff will have the playbook mean and lean and ready for 2013.
Knowing Who Will Back Up Joe Southwick
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Going into spring practice, Joe Southwick is the clear starter. People can say what they want, but Southwick proved himself last season, and it would be hard to believe he wouldn't be the starter this fall.
The big question this spring is which quarterback is going to be the backup?
There are three candidates in spring camp who have a legitimate shot at being No. 2. Among the list are junior Grant Hedrick, sophomore Jimmy Laughrea and redshirt freshman Nick Patti.
Patti is a favorite among many fans simply because of expectation.
When he came to Boise last season, it was in a time of many unknowns. Some of the fans were hoping that lightning might strike twice, and Nick Patti could become the next Kellen Moore. Or, at the very least, Kellen Moore like.
While that didn't happen, the things that Patti did in spring camp last year did encourage a number of people.
It will be interesting to see how much Patti has improved over last year. If he has made considerable progress, he will most likely be the backup.
Laughrea sports an incredible arm. In fact, it is probably the best arm of the bunch. However, he didn't have the best spring game in 2012, and he also found himself sidelined with an injury.
Laughrea is going to have to do something very special in camp in order to get the nod as backup. A big arm won't guarantee anything on a Chris Petersen team.
Hedrick did some good things as the backup last year. He looks like a running back that plays quarterback, and his change of pace helps keep defenses on their heels.
Hedrick may end up being the backup in 2013 if for no other reason he has the experience.
He is a decent passer, but his biggest strength has to be his mobility and ability to run the option and the wildcat.
Spring camp should give coach Petersen and his staff a pretty good indication of who their No. 2 quarterback should be.
Just looking at the information available, it appears that the starter will be Southwick with the backup being Hedrick followed by Patti and Laughrea.
The only way this changes is if Patti or Laughrea come out this spring and overwhelm the coaches with progress. That doesn't seem to be the case as of yet.
Pick a Backup for Ajayi
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Jay Ajayi is the clear starter at running back for the Broncos.
But, who will his backup be?
There are several running backs on the roster, but only a couple of them have ever carried the ball at the college level.
Sophomore Jack Fields saw limited action last year for the Broncos, and as a true freshman, he was a bit unimpressive. It will be interesting to see how much progress he has made this season.
The only other experienced back comes from the junior college ranks.
Derrick Thomas is a junior college transfer out of Butler Community College. He is an aggressive runner with speed, agility and power.
Thomas is 6'1", 210 pounds and similar to Jay Ajayi when it comes to a bruising style that pounds out yardage.
If Thomas works out as expected, he will certainly be the backup. Ajayi and Thomas, if they stay healthy, could be an incredible tandem.
Another running back to look out for this spring is redshirt freshman Devan Demas. He is an electric athlete, and he could be an excellent change of pace in contrast to Ajayi and Thomas.
Thomas may end up the backup, but Demas could end up stealing the show.
Find One Starting Cornerback This Spring
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Boise State has to replace both of its outstanding cornerbacks. Jerrell Gavins and Jamar Taylor were seniors last season, and one or both of them could be playing in the NFL this fall.
Replacing them will not be an easy task considering how well they did in shutting down opposing receivers. However, there is a fair amount of talent on the 2013 roster, and if they can stay healthy, the cornerback position should be solid for the Broncos.
In spring, the Broncos probably only need to have one starter in mind going into the fall. Considering that junior Bryan Douglas will be back this fall after suffering an ACL injury in 2012. Douglas did an amazing job at corner when needed last season. He is certainly a front-runner for a spot this year.
Boise State will also get junior college transfer Mercy Maston this fall as well as true freshmen Dionza Blue, Jonathan Moxey and Cameron Hartsfield. To say the coaching staff will have a large selection would be an understatement.
But, that comes in the fall. This spring the competition for one spot is among four guys.
Deon'tae Florence is a junior who has a bit of game time experience. He played mostly special teams last season but looked the part when asked to fill in at corner. He is quite talented, and with a year at Boise State under his belt, look for him to be in contention for one of the vacancies at corner.
Donte Deayon is another very talented player, and as long as he can escape the injury bug, he should be ready to go by this fall.
An intriguing player at this position in spring camp is Cleshawn Page. He is a junior college transfer out of Los Angeles Harbor College, and his speed is extremely impressive. Look for him to press hard for playing time, and he could very well end up as one of the starters.
Chaz Anderson is a redshirt freshman who spent last season on the scout defense. However, his time there was not wasted as he impressed more than a few with his athleticism.
Look for the coaching staff to have at least one starter in mind as they go forward. This fall will be key in creating an additional starter and a solid depth chart at corner.
Kick the Spring off Right
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Fans at the Boise State spring game last year weren't all that impressed with the kicking game as they saw the first point-after-touchdown attempt hit the upright and bounce away aimlessly. The shaking of heads led to a hopeless feeling of "here we go again" among the crowd.
However, last season Michael Frisina ended up doing a fine job kicking field goals from about 32 yards out or closer. In fact, it was his kick from 27 yards that gave the Broncos a 28-26 victory over the Washington Huskies in the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas.
This season, there is a new kicker in town, and he probably wants to start off on a better foot than Frisina did just 12 months ago.
It should happen, and here's why.
Tyler Rausa is a 5'10, 180-pound kicker out of Riverside City College. Frisina was a fine kicker and accurate, but at 5'5" and just 162 pounds, he lacked some range.
Rausa has range and accuracy, and he has experience kicking at the college level. Last season Rausa made 15 of 20 field goals and 52 of 53 extra points. His longest field goal was 48 yards, which is something Boise State fans can only dream of.
If Rausa comes into spring camp and simply does what he has been doing, the job should be his, and the fans should be happy.
Having a solid kicker has to be a spring benchmark that coach Petersen definitely wants to make.